Thriving with Metastatic Cancer
- Actress Shannen Doherty, 51, is currently battling stage four breast cancer, but she is thriving. The animal activist recently shared a post from a nonprofit that works to rescue dogs from the street or overcrowded, high-kill community shelters.
- Metastatic, or stage four, breast cancer is technically not curable, but with ongoing advancements in treatments and options to dramatically reduce symptoms, there are many reasons to be hopeful.
- Life doesn’t slow down for a cancer diagnosis, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. And living with stage four cancer doesn’t mean you should stop prioritizing your overall wellbeing and continuing to do the things you love.
The 51-year-old actress, best known for her roles in Heathers, Charmed and Beverly Hills, 90210, was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015 after finding a lump in her breast. At first, she was treated with hormone therapy, but this effort turned out to be ineffective as the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes.Read More
Then, she underwent a single mastectomy to remove one of her breasts, chemotherapy and radiation. She was in remission until 2019, when she discovered her breast cancer had returned. This time, the cancer had spread to other parts of her body making it a metastatic, or stage four, cancer diagnosis.
Shannen Doherty the Animal Lover
Even still, Doherty, who’s married to photographer Kurt Iswarienko, 47, has managed to keep acting and stay positive amid her cancer journey. She’s also consistently advocated for animal rights and worked to save stray dogs.
In her most recent Instagram post, she shared a post from Ghetto Rescue FFoundation detailing little Odafin’s story to raise money for his emergency fund with the nonprofit which works to rescue “street” dogs and dogs in overcrowded, high-kill community shelters.
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“This is Odafin. Against all odds, Odafin,” the post read under a heartbreaking picture of the struggling puppy. “He is only four pounds. He is two months old, so he should be a fat, happy puppy. Instead, Odafin is trying to survive. We were contacted by a community member who was able to get him to a Veterinarian and pay for his initial visit.
“He wags his tail, he’s trying.”
And this is certainly not the first time Doherty has tried to help animals. Just last month, she also shared a post about a dog named Kali in the hopes of getting her adopted.
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“Kali needs out now,” the post read. “Surrendered bc her family moved…. This love bug is still waiting 💔💔and we don’t understand why!!”
Understanding Metastatic Breast Cancer
Shannen Doherty has proven that an advanced cancer diagnosis does not require that you stop living. Metastatic breast cancer – also called “stage four” breast cancer – means that the cancer has spread, or metastasized, beyond the breasts to other parts of the body. It most commonly spreads to the bones, liver and lungs, but it may also spread to the brain or other organs.
And while there is technically no cure for metastatic breast cancer, there is a wide variety of treatment options used to battle the disease including hormone therapy, chemotherapy, targeted drugs, immunotherapy and a combination of various treatments.
In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, Dr. Elizabeth Comen, an oncologist with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, explained how she tries to manage breast cancer when it has progressed to a later stage.
“With advanced disease, the goal of treatment is to keep you as stable as possible, slow the tumor growth and improve your quality of life,” she said.
The American Cancer Society reports that there were more than 3.8 million U.S. women with a history of breast cancer alive at the start of 2019. Some of the women were cancer-free, and others still had evidence of the disease, but they also reported that more than 150,000 breast cancer survivors were living with metastatic disease, three-fourths of whom were originally diagnosed with stage I-III. And with ongoing advancements in treatments and options out there today that can dramatically reduce symptoms, there are many reasons to be hopeful.
Living with Cancer
Life doesn’t slow down for a cancer diagnosis, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, our experts say that prioritizing your overall wellbeing and continuing to do the things you love can be very beneficial.
Dr. Geoffrey Oxnard, a thoracic oncologist, shared three things he tells his lung cancer patients about living with the disease:
- Don’t act sick – “You can’t mope around,” he said. “Do things, and in doing things, you will stay active.”
- Don’t lose weight – “Eat what you need to do to not lose weight,” he said. “I like my patients pleasantly plump.”
- Don’t be a tough guy – “When you’ve got lung cancer, you need work with your doctor to keep your medical conditions under control.”